Planning a trip in 2020? Avoid Bali, Big Sur, and these other popular travel destinations ruined by tourists, Fodor’s says

A tourist runs in front a train passing through Hanoi Train Street in Vietnam, one of the destinations on Fodor’s 2020 Travel “No List.” source

Milkovasa / Shutterstock

Fodor’s Travel has released its fourth annual “No List,” highlighting the destinations, activities, and businesses travelers should think twice about in 2020.
This year’s “No List” includes popular places like Big Sur, Bali, and Cape Town, select hotels and bars, and elephant riding as a tourist activity.
Poison beer, dying coral, animal abuse, and hordes of tourists are among the reasons why Fodor’s recommends visitors avoid the destinations and activities on their “No List.”
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Fodor’s Travel has released its fourth annual “No List,” highlighting the destinations, activities, and businesses that they recommend travelers reconsider in the upcoming year for ethical, environmental, and political reasons.

“Every year, we use the No List to highlight issues that we’re thinking about before, during, and long after we travel,” Jeremy Tarr, the Editorial Director of, said in a press release. “Being featured on the No List is hardly a scarlet letter. Rather, it’s a promise that when Fodor’s covers the destinations on the list, we’ll be doing so responsibly – warts and all.”

The Fodor’s editorial team chose the destinations on the 2020 No List from over 100 potential destinations. Previous lists have included, among others, Venice and Machu Picchu, both of which have enacted measures against overtourism in recent years.

This year, Fodor’s also included more general types of destinations and activities sustainable travelers ought to avoid, including select bars, hotels, and elephant riding.

From a street in Hanoi where tourists jump out in front of trains in order to capture the perfect Instagram shot to beaches in Bali strewn with trash, the 2020 list includes destinations that need some time away from tourists or ones that pose safety risks. Take a look:

Barcelona, Spain

Tourists on the steps leading up to Park Güell. source

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Barcelona is plagued by overtourism. Short-term rentals such as Airbnb have made it easier for tourists to access the city, with the negative effects of increasing rent prices for locals, degrading the environment and breaking up communities, says Fodor’s. In April, the New Yorker reported that 1.5 million tourists stay in Barcelona Airbnbs each year, and that due to rent increases resulting from short-term rentals, the resident population of the city’s Gothic Quarter “has declined by 45% in the past dozen years.” What’s more, popular tourist destinations such as Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia and Park Güell are located in residential areas and have no room to expand and accommodate the influx of visitors, Fodor’s notes. While Barcelona’s mayor has proposed a plan to create 500 superblocks, or groups of streets closed to major traffic, Fodor’s suggests that the city ne time and space out of the travel spotlight to enact these changes.

Big Sur, California

caption Bixby Bridge, Big Sur. source

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Big Sur is an iconic destination along one of the United States’ most iconic road trips and has gained even more popularity thanks to HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and tourism efforts from Monterey County.

The influx of visitors combined with a lack of bathrooms has led to what Fodor’s characterizes as “disgusting roadside consequences” and illegal camping presents an environmental risk, considering that California has faced a string of deadly wildfires over the past several years. In 2016, an illegal campfire in Big Sur ignited the the three-month long Soberanas fire.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia


The 900-year-old Angkor Wat temple is Cambodia’s most visited attraction – and unfortunately, the structure’s steps, friezes, and bas-reliefs are eroding from the touch of so many visitors.”They are eroded and discolored by pollution, bats droppings, and vandals whose ranks include not only those who break off ornaments for profit, but thoughtless visitors who let their backpacks scrape the surfaces of walls,” UNESCO wrote in 2013. The damage extends beyond the temple grounds to the surrounding area of Siem Reap. For one, hotels have exacerbated the effects of 2019’s drought, says Fodor’s. Though the agency in charge of Angkor Wat has started to limit the amount of visitors at a popular sunset watching spot near the temple, Fodor’s suggests that protecting the temple with walkways and protective glass, regulating hotels’ use of water, and promoting tourism elsewhere in Cambodia would help relieve the strain on Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.

Bali, Indonesia

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Bali, touted in travelers’ imaginations as a paradise with sparkling blue waters and pristine beaches, is another destination bearing the burden of overtourism. In response to beaches littered with trash, the Indonesian government declared a “garbage emergency” in 2017 and banned single-use plastics in December 2018.

To make matters worse, luxury villas and golf courses are affecting the livelihoods of farmers by sucking up water. Bali has considered instituting a tourist tax of $10 per visitor and is also working to create guidelines for culturally insensitive tourists, a select group of whom “are visiting religious sites in bathing suits,” Fodor’s notes.

Hanoi Train Street, Vietnam

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Located in a residential area of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the Hanoi Train Street is a favorite of Instagrammers and shutterbugs. Flocking to the narrow sidewalks, tourists wait to capture the perfect shot of trains as they pass through twice daily.

The crowding has gotten so bad, says Fodor’s, that recently a train couldn’t pass and had to be rerouted. As a result, the government of Hanoi has ordered trackside cafes to close down and has posted signs advising against photo and video usage.

Matterhorn, Switzerland

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More people are dying in attempts to climb Switzerland’s Matterhorn. In 2019, seven climbers died on the mountain, and 11 lost their lives in 2018. A geologist with the Swiss Alpine Club has said that warmer conditions and thawing permafrost have led to more dangerous conditions on the mountains, Fodor’s reports. In January 2018, 13,000 tourists got stuck in the nearby town of Zermatt amid a heightened avalanche risk. The Matterhorn remains open to the public.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

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The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which stretches for 360 miles off the coast of southeastern Florida, is dying. A disease known as “stony coral tissue loss,” which was discovered in 2014, has affected more than 150 square miles of reef and affected close to half of its resident stony coral, Fodor’s reports.

Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel, Mexico

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Stony coral tissue loss disease has also spread to the tropical waters of Cozumel, Mexico. On October 7, 2019, one year after the disease was detected in the area, Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas announced that it would be suspending “all aquatic activities” until the end of the year in order to bolster the reefs with coral grown in labs.

To protect the coral reef in these threatened areas and others, Fodor’s notes that travelers can avoid anchoring their watercraft on coral and opt for coral reef-safe sunscreen.

Galapágos Island, Ecuador

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The land of giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies is a bucket list destination for many, and an increasing number of people are checking it off their lists. Airbnb rentals, inexpensive flights, and cruise ships have all contributed to an increase in visitors over the past few years, says Fodor’s.

To put a cap on the number of visitors, the Galapagos is currently considering increasing the visitor fee relative to how many nights visitors spend on mainland Ecuador, according to the New York Times. A representative from the island’s government council told Fodor’s that the $100 per visitor fee hasn’t changed in 20 years.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

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Like the Galapágos Island, Indonesia’s Komodo Island is on high alert for damaging effects to its ecosystem. The island’s infamous Komodo dragons have become a target for poachers and have also become accustomed to tourists feeding them, even though signs remind tourists that they can’t feed the dragons.

The government of Indonesia is considering a visitor cap and imposing a tourist tax upwards of $1,000, the BBC reports. They’d previously been contemplating closing the island altogether, a plan that was officially scrapped in late September.

Cape Town, South Africa

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Cape Town, with its dramatic Seven Sisters peaks and sparkling bay, is an undeniably breathtaking city – and its central downtown is generally considered safe for tourists. However, certain areas in the region have experienced a a major uptick in crime fueled by gang turf wars, with nearly 1,000 murders in the first six months of 2019.

“It is really a tale of two cities,” Albert Fritz, Cape Town’s provincial minister for community safety, told the Guardian in October, speaking about how concentrated the crime-ridden areas have been. “You can be a tourist in the center of Cape Town [and] you will be totally safe. You will not know that … 10km [6.2 miles] away there are people shooting at police.”

In a statement provided to Fodor’s in response to Cape Town’s inclusion on the “No List,” Minister Fritz noted that the military presence of the South African National Defence Force, as well as increased police and law enforcement initiatives, had led to a “dramatic” drop in violent crime rates and “increased general perceptions of safety” in some of the more crime-ridden areas. He also said that visitors to Cape Town “are advised to take the same level of precaution they would when visiting any other major city in the world.”

Certain resorts in Mexico and Central America

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Due to a string of deaths attributed to beer with high concentrations of methanol, Fodor’s is recommending that travelers be careful about their bar and resort selection in Mexico and Central America. The tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic were found not to be caused by tainted alcohol but by “natural causes,” according to the FBI. However, other cases in Costa Rica and Mexico are still being investigated.

Don’t ride elephants

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Elephant riding is a widespread tourist activity in Asia; however, it often comes at the expense of animal welfare, says Fodor’s, which cited an investigation by Intrepid Travel and World Animal Protection into the conditions of elephants used for tourism and entertainment. Tourist interest in this activity has exploded in the last few years thanks to a more general increase in tourism, particularly in areas like Thailand.

In early November, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat announced that it has completely banned elephant riding for tourists, an initiative that will take effect next year.

Consider who funds your hotels

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While a hotel may offer white-glove service, the activities of its owners and those funding it may not be so spotless. Fodor’s cites the boycott of hotels owned by the leader of Brunei earlier this year after he attempted to make gay sex punishable by death (which the country said in May it would not enforce “after global backlash”).

Travelers may want to be cognizant of the individuals they’re indirectly supporting by choosing to stay in (and give their money to) certain hotels over others.